The No. 14 chair is the most famous chair made by the Thonet chair company. Also known as the 'bistro chair', it was designed by Michael Thonet and introduced in 1859, becoming the world's first mass-produced item of furniture. It is made using bent wood (steam-bending), and the design required years to perfect. With its affordable price and simple design, it became one of the best-selling chairs ever made. Some 50 million No. 14s were sold between 1859 and 1930, and millions more have been sold since.
Thonet's No. 14 was made of six pieces of steam-bent wood, ten screws, and two nuts. The wooden parts were made by heating beechwood slats to 100 °C (212 °F), pressing them into curved cast-iron moulds, and then drying them at around 70 °C (158 °F) for 20 hours. The chairs could be mass-produced by unskilled workers and disassembled to save space during transportation.
Later chairs, as illustrated here, were made of eight pieces of wood: two diagonal braces were added between the seat and back, to strengthen this hard-worked joint.
The design was a response to a requirement for cafe-style chairs. The seat was often made of woven cane or palm, because the holes in the seat would let spilt liquid drain off the chair.